Question Marks Fill Bullpen in Final Week

Besides the search for a left-handed hitting outfielder, the Phillies biggest question mark centers around the bullpen. There are going to be some decisions to be made on who stays and who goes.

Now that it appears that Tom Gordon is healthy, the back end of the Phillies bullpen figures to be set. Gordon will serve as the closer and Arthur Rhodes will be his setup man. Rhodes has been rock steady this spring and Gordon has pitched well since returning from a tight elbow that plagued him early in camp.

One problem is going to be getting to Rhodes and Gordon. Ryan Madson filled the role of bridge between starters and relievers last season, but with his ascension to the starting rotation, there is a hole to be filled. Originally, the Phillies figured on either Rheal Cormier or Aaron Fultz to take the job, but neither has stepped up, setting up a battle for the spot.

Geoff Geary has pitched well this spring. In nine games, Geary has three saves and a 1.38 ERA this spring. His performance has locked him into a spot and possibly into Madson's old job. Fultz (1 save, 6.40 ERA) and Cormier (4.05 ERA) have both been unimpressive for much of the spring, although Cormier did pitch well for the Phillies Sunday in their loss to Boston. The question comes up as to whether the Phillies will keep both Cormier and Fultz - both lefties - if neither is going to be pitching in a late inning type role. Rumors of deals for both players have circulated and the latest is that the Detroit Tigers have a definite interest in Cormier.

Ricardo Rodriguez was also rumored to be dealt elsewhere, since he's out of options and hadn't opened any eyes. Things have changed though and the right-hander, who the Phillies acquired from Texas for Vicente Padilla, could work out of the bullpen in long relief. Rodriguez has been a starter throughout his career, but he won't find work in the Phillies' starting rotation, but finds himself in the same spot that Madson was in a few years ago. He could win a job as a long reliever and possibly move up to more pressure roles as he proves himself. As things stand now, Rodriguez will likely be kept and win a bullpen job.

If the Phillies keep both Cormier and Fultz and Rodriguez does in fact win a job, that fills six of the seven spots in the bullpen. Julio Santana, Aquilino Lopez, Rob Tejeda, Eude Brito and Chris Booker all battling for the final spot. Tejeda or Brito would likely only make the club if Rodriguez were to be dealt elsewhere and they're ticketed for AAA Scranton Wilkes-Barre. Booker is a Rule 5 pick and the Phillies could lose him if they don't keep him on the major league roster. They may try to do with him what they did with Shane Victorino last season and work out a deal to keep him, allowing them to option him out to AAA, although it's not out of the question that he could still make the club. The Phillies like his potential and could decide to keep him.

Santana (0-1, 4.22) and Lopez (1-0, 5.79, 3 saves) are still in the running and their fate may hinge on what the Phillies decide to do with Booker. Moving either Cormier or Fultz could also provide an opportunity for someone else in the bullpen.

With less than a week remaining in the Grapefruit League, there are plenty of questions to be answered and the Phillies figure to give all of the candidates a good chunk of work to make their final push to win a job with the major league club.

Spring Stats

Tom Gordon 1 0 6.00 1 4 0 3.0 3 2 2 0 2 1
Arthur Rhodes 0 0 1.13 0 7 0 8.0 4 1 1 0 0 6
Geoff Geary 1 0 1.38 3 9 0 13.0 11 2 2 0 1 5
Aaron Fultz 0 0 6.40 1 10 0 12.2 19 9 9 3 3 7
Rheal Cormier 0 0 4.05 0 5 0 6.2 7 3 3 0 2 6
Chris Booker 0 0 18.00 0 2 0 2.0 4 4 4 0 2 2
Eude Brito 0 0 9.45 0 4 1 6.2 10 9 7 2 3 3
Aquilino Lopez 1 0 5.79 3 9 0 9.1 15 7 6 1 3 11
Ricardo Rodriguez 0 0 4.15 0 6 2 13.0 15 6 6 2 7 8
Julio Santana 0 1 4.22 0 8 0 10.2 8 5 5 0 4 7
Robinson Tejeda 0 0 7.10 0 4 1 6.1 9 7 5 1 4 5

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